Posts Tagged With: john hurt

Have I Got Whos For You (Party Politics edition)

And introducing David Mellor as the Doctor.

(It’s fine, really. I’ve never liked him much but I maintain a chap has a right to have his hair however he wants. Still, it’s such an obvious joke…)

We have a couple of fan-baiting posts in the works over at Brian of Morbius, but I’m about to go on holiday and I’d very much like to be around to deal with the fallout when they land on social media, so that’ll have to wait. Instead, here’s a fresh selection – some hot off the press, some slightly older material I hadn’t yet got around to posting – and much of it of a political bent. You’ve been warned.

“Define ‘political’,” I hear you ask, when I’ve prodded you in the ribs and asked you to read it off the cue card. Well –

“What’s Trump doing there?” someone asked, whereupon I had to explain that no, this wasn’t Trump. “What are you talking about?” was the reply. “Of course it is.” And I suppose in a way she’s right, although not on purpose.

Speaking of Trump, he’s finally got that wall finished.

“Henry may be sad. Of course he’s sad. It’s what he deserves. Engines who don’t pull their weight get punished. No doubt the FAKE NEWS MEDIA will spew out their usual garbage about unions. Why don’t they go back to the cesspools they came from?”

Of course, if you really want something Who-related.

Talk to the hand, baby.

Elsewhere, in a pub somewhere in Norfolk, the Twelfth Doctor is trying unsuccessfully to get Kate Lethbridge-Stewart interested in Risk.

At a private function in the very same venue, John Bercow is realising that he’s missed his true calling all these years.

And somewhere in the void:

I think I’ll just go and eat worms…

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Have I Got Whos For You (half rice, half chips edition)

In the news this week: there is general panic in supermarkets up and down the country as Donna and Martha struggle to keep the Tenth Doctor away from the ice cream.

An alternative, previously unseen angle from the Apollo 11 moon launch fifty years ago throws up a disturbing sight.

And the full, unseen edition of the poster for Patrick Stewart’s new Star Trek vehicle shows exactly what Picard was staring at off to the right.

Elsewhere, the Thirteenth Doctor’s pleased when her Amazon order shows up.

And a deleted exchange from ‘The Sound of Drums’ proves to be oddly prophetic for Boris Johnson.

Talking of Boris, his announcement during last week’s debate that “we must get off the hamster wheel of doom” kind of gave me an idea.

Finally, this week’s recipe, which has no ingredient lists or method, and consists instead of a single instruction from the War Doctor. “Great men are forged in fire,” he tells us. “It is the privilege of lesser men to light the flame.”

Be good, and if you can’t be good, be careful. And if you can’t manage that, remember the date.

 

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“Garth. That was a haiku.”

This, dear children, is how I’ve been spending World Poetry Day. Because why not? And yes, a number of Doctors are missing, but I’ll write more next year. Probably. You might even get a sonnet.

In the meantime, have fun. And as a footnote, that last one is something that I actually read this week, and is perhaps the best example I can give right now of a fandom that is apparently broken.

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Have I Got Whos For You (series 11 edition, part 4)

And….we’re back from commercial. Right, did everybody enjoy Thanksgiving? ‘Cos the Doctor’s got the turkey on.

(Mr Bean did it first, of course, and to arguably better effect.)

Thanksgiving is typically more about spending time with your family than it is about exchanging gifts – but there have been scores of references to packaging all over the internet after ‘Kerblam’, and not in a good way.

Elsewhere in the Whoniverse this week there was consternation when an Amazon Prime scheduling cockup meant that American subscribers to their streaming video service got to watch episode eight before they’d seen episode seven.

As for me, I’ve been tinkering with grainy, near-unusuable shots from ‘Kerblam!’ (do I have to type out the exclamation mark every time? It’s incredibly tedious) in order to produce more obscure connections to CBeebies programmes, although feedback for this one does suggest I’m not alone.

But I did find time to get hold of this exclusive preview shot from next week’s Holby City.

Hoopy Froobs!

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Conversations I’ve had on Facebook this week

 

Grumpy Australasian: JOHN HURT HAS BEEN AIRBRUSHED FROM DOCTOR WHO HISTORY!

Me and several others: No he hasn’t.

GA: No one talks about him.

Me: They really do.

GA: No, check the mass media.

Me: I have. I’m afraid I just don’t see what you see.

GA: Oh, I’m sorry, Scully. This all a bit Loch Ness Monster, is it?

Me: Um.

Third party: That episode ought to have featured McGann or Eccleston.

GA: They wouldn’t fit.

Me: McGann would have fit. They were building to that in the Dark Eyes series. They just didn’t do it. Hurt fits the War Doctor narrative, but only because it was written around him.

GA: He’s still airbrushed from the media.

Me: I still can’t understand why you think that when there’s been so much coverage.

GA: I’m finding you an example.

Me: You’re finding me an example of where someone doesn’t talk about something, when I could just as easily find you several where the reverse applies?

GA: [Hits block button]

And not long after the trailer for ‘Twice Upon A Time’ had landed:

Fan: Is that the Brigadier???

Me: No.

Fan: But it might be.

Me: No, because they probably wouldn’t recast like that.

Fan: But he has a moustache.

Me:

Fan: I’m just saying, it could be him.

Me: It’s completely the wrong characterisation. And the story is set during the First World War.

Fan: Yes, but…wibbly wobbly timey wimey…

Me: [smashes monitor]

I swear. Fandom.

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Remastered: Whistle and I’ll Come To You, Explained

In the darkness, something stirs. There’s a scratching at the door. John Hurt lies on an old bed, fingering a ring he found on the beach with almost Hobbit-like intimacy. There are noises. We never find out what’s causing the disturbance. There is an ending, but as with the best horror stories, it makes comparatively little sense.

It terrified me. It terrified both of us, as I remember: the heightened emotions of Yule and the thrill of a ghostly tale told beneath a darkened, wintry sky; the sight of a suddenly lucid Gemma Jones sitting on the bed, staring directly at the camera. The moment it finished I turned on all the lights. Neither of us slept well.

“There were just lots of noises,” Emily said, when I asked her why it had affected her so much. “And nasty things happening. And I couldn’t understand it!”. This, I suppose, is the whole point: we fear what we do not understand, and the nature of the haunting that the ageing professor was experiencing was never fully explained. In the meantime I managed to spook my wife by scratching on the side of the bed, and crawling across it towards her, bellowing “I’M STILL HERE!”

I accept – without reservation – that the original is better, despite never having seen it; one set of wandering blankets is enough, thank you very much. And I wouldn’t say that the video that followed – which I completed a few weeks later, at the dawn of 2011 – was therapy. But perhaps in a way it was. Perhaps the best way to defuse the tension is to kill it with a joke. This was my favourite episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and it was such an obvious fit. It pairs Frank Spencer with the War Doctor. The end result jars, which is partly the type of film used and partly the aspect ratio. But the story works.

If you’ve been following this blog more or less since its inception – or if you’ve had the dedication to go back and read through all the archives, for which I thank you profusely – you’ll remember that this video is the first one I did, and the first one I wrote about here. Deciding to revisit it again this autumn (purely for the purposes of uploading it to Facebook) meant a host of mostly cosmetic changes. I fixed a couple of rough edits and took care of a couple of sound issues that I was never quite happy with. The actual structure is more or less unaltered, because it works as is. I got my fair share of negative feedback, given that it doesn’t really give the concrete answer that people might have expected from the title. It’s an explanation, but a comedic one. I honestly think people expect to be spoon-fed.

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But I do recall another night not long after we’d seen Whistle, lying in bed, cuddled, the electric moon candles I gave her for Christmas the only light in the room.

“I looked it up, and there seem to be a couple of theories,” I was telling her. “One is that the whole thing was psychosomatic. The other is that she was haunting him because he believed she was nothing more than an Alzheimer’s-ridden shell. But I don’t know.
“Something strange, though. You remember the ugly bust they had in the bedroom? Apparently Neil Cross, the writer, was staying in a hotel in Devon, probably for research or something. And that same bust was in his room and he remembered it looking inappropriately creepy for hotel decor and that probably fuelled the creative process. Later on, when they were assembling the set in the Surrey mansion they were using, he realised it would look good in John Hurt’s room so he contacted the hotel, and asked if they could borrow it. And apparently…it never existed. He showed them photos, and they said yes, it’s our hotel and it’s our room, but this bust was never here.”

Emily said nothing.

“So they had a replica made, because he could remember what it looked like, but the original just wasn’t there. Creepy stuff, isn’t it? Anyway, goodnight.”
“Shithead.”

Happy Halloween.

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Lots of planets have a North

This blog’s been comparatively quiet over the last week because I’ve been holidaying: fifteen days of travelling around Yorkshire, Cumbria and Northumberland (with a couple of brief trips north of the border sandwiched in between). We stayed in youth hostels, which varied in breakfast quality / facilities / WiFi strength, and saw more castles, museums and ruined priories than I care to count. I drove the van; the kids in turn drove me mad. Emily planned the whole thing and was generally fantastic.

But you don’t want to hear about the bridges at Hartlepool, or the red squirrels outside the dining room at Alston, or the time Josh got stuck in a revolving door on the way out of the Scottish Parliament building. You want the Who-themed stuff, don’t you? This is Brian of Morbius, after all, and finding tenuous Doctor Who-related connections in more or less everything is kind of what we do here. Very well, let’s get on with it.

 

1. Observed in an Edinburgh museum (and pinched from another website as the photo I took wasn’t much good), a rare sighting of Jon Pertwee and Patrick Troughton.

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2. So I’m wandering through the middle of Carlisle, and…

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3. Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island: there’s a grave marker for a woman named Osgyth, a seventh century English saint from Buckinghamshire. There are all sorts of stories about arranged marriages and the pursuit of holy vows, but personally I can’t help thinking it’s another Clara fragment.

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4. Hang on, when did the War Doctor visit Cragside?

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5. Random charity shop purchases. My bag weighed a ton by the time we drove home.

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6. That is a chair with a panda on it.

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7. Observed in a York museum. It’s not just me, is it? Tell me it’s not just me.

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8. KFC Dalek, courtesy of Thomas.

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9. Don’t blink.

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10. Finally, something non-Who related, but worth sharing: this burger – consumed in a pub in Edinburgh – is 8 oz of Angus beef, topped with haggis. They call it the Highlander. Concordantly, I have removed its head.

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Gareth wanted to know if I had seconds, but of course, there can be only one…

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Romana’s Round-up

This week at Meme Central, anticipation builds towards the latest Pixar release.

Dory_TARDIS

News comes in that Kathryn Bigelow is set to remake a Doctor Who version of The Hurt Locker.

HurtLocker

And in the wake of new truths concerning Captain America, comic fans react angrily to the latest developments in the adventures of the Twelfth Doctor.

Doc_Hydra

Enjoy your week.

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High on a hill lived a lonely Jedi

If you sang that, then my work is more or less done and I could probably go now. But I dropped in to expand upon this meme that’s been doing the rounds.

Luke_Meme

I won’t linger on the Star Wars / Doctor Who thing. We did all that last year, in more ways than one. It’s just that Thomas has been on at me to do something with that final sequence ever since we saw the film back in December; only recently did I actually find decent quality images to do the Photoshopping.

ForceAwake_Hurt

Because we were all thinking it, right?

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Review: ‘Day of the Doctor’

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Warning: contains a plethora of spoilers.

Picture the scene. It’s October 2012. In an old, oak-panelled tavern in the heart of London, two prominent BBC people are having lunch. One is Nicholas Briggs, best known on television as the voice of the Daleks / Cybermen / any other monster that needs doing. To call him the Frank Welker of Doctor Who is overstating the case, because Welker’s got a variety of voices, whereas Briggs only has the one. But Briggs also writes, and right now he’s working on the anniversary special for Big Finish, called ‘The Light At The End‘.

The other chap is Steven Moffat. And today he’s sharing stories with Briggs.

“So how does it end?”
“Well,” says Briggs, “It’s the TARDIS. Basically the Master is about to erase the Doctor from existence completely. But with a bit of – well, you’d call it wibbly-wobbliness, the Sixth Doctor is able to get all seven of his other selves – that’s all eight – to work in sync to ram the Master’s TARDIS, which saves the day. There’s a bit of technical wizardry involved, but essentially every Doctor turns up at once.”
Moffat looks crestfallen. “You’re kidding.”
“What’s the matter?”
“That’s what I’m planning.”
“Shit.”

There’s a brief, considered pause. Glasses clink in another corner of the pub. The barman wipes surfaces and pretends not to eavesdrop.

Then Moffat says “Well, we could do it anyway.”

‘Day of the Doctor’ is a weirdly schizophrenic beast. It’s an episode that’s steeped in nostalgia, whilst simultaneously pretending it’s not. It’s also a game-changer, not in the sense of redefining who the Doctor is, but what he’s done. Just as Davies pulled the rug out from under the collective feet of John Nathan Turner and every one of his predecessors, so Moffat’s done the same with Davies. How? Well, basically he changes the end of the Time War.

There is a thing in fandom where you airbrush bits and pieces from continuity if you don’t like them. So, for example, the Eighth Doctor’s ‘half human’ remark is frequently ignored by many people, who don’t like its implications and therefore attribute it to rule one. Some fans take it further still, and disregard the 1996 film entirely because of what it did to the Master. With ‘The Day of the Doctor’, Moffat’s working with extremes. The Doctor has been a genocidal warmonger since the day Eccleston took the hand of Piper and told her to run. The implication is that the Doctor has done dreadful things, and today they all got undone.

Except they didn’t. Because history probably isn’t changed – it’s just completed, and this was the day we found out. It’s not that Gallifrey was once destroyed and now isn’t; it was never destroyed in the first place. But crucially, come the end of the episode, the Doctor doesn’t know. There is a telling line halfway through when the War Doctor – John Hurt in sparkling, likeable form – talks to Clara. “How many worlds”, he says to her, “has his regret saved?”. And despite the rewriting of history (or, at least, history as we knew it), there’s a bitter irony in Hurt’s realisation that he’s going to forget everything that’s happened, because of contrasting time streams. Tennant’s Doctor, too, is forced to retreat once more into the dark shell he inhabited for much of the latter half of his run. Only Smith’s Doctor is able to escape with his memories seemingly intact, even if he then starts experiencing hallucinations in the middle of the National Gallery, ending the episode convinced he’s seen Tom Baker.

One of the nice things about ‘Day of the Doctor’ is that it doesn’t overstretch itself. Oh, the set pieces are intact, although the episode mirrors The Empire Strikes Back by putting the most impressive stuff in the opening act. Smith dangling from the edge of the TARDIS wasn’t exactly an easy secret to keep, so Moffat places it more or less at the beginning and makes it completely incidental to the plot. Also incidental – but warmly nostalgic – is the fact that Clara is now teaching at Coal Hill School. She’s clearly recovered from her thousand life ordeal, and is happy to pop off in the TARDIS at a moment’s notice.

Unshackled from her previous role as a McGuffin, Clara’s fun to watch, but she has to share the limelight. Jemma Redgrave returns as Kate Stewart, who’s apparently been living with Anne Robinson and raiding her wardrobe. Kate spends a good chunk of the episode arguing with herself from opposites side of a table, before three British character actors stick their hands in the air and all the lights go out. It’s like watching one of Beckett’s television plays.

Less nattily turned out than Redgrave is Billie Piper, who returns as a sentient consciousness that possesses three times as much personality as Rose and at least twice as much charm. If that seems harsh, bear in mind that I still have to undergo local anaesthetic before I can sit through ‘Tooth and Claw’. It’s the first time Piper’s been watchable in Who since 2005, and if she spends most of the episode impersonating Suranne Jones, her scenes are all the better for it. Even the Quantum Leap undertones (an invisible guide that only the War Doctor can see and hear) are somehow unimportant when she’s so downright sparkly, and it’s a telling reminder that our Billie can act when she’s got the right material.

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Tennant’s Doctor doesn’t have to interact with Rose, which makes his presence far more enjoyable. Instead, he’s romancing Joanna Page, playing a Queen Elizabeth who would seem more at home in The History of Tom Jones, one suspects, than at court. There are picnics and countryside frolics, and then the Doctor meets a Zygon horse. And then there’s a fez, thrown repeatedly through a big swirly thing.

The problem with the Zygon story is that it begins as the main storyline but then gets relegated to the sidelines when we realise that this is actually about the Time War, and having apparently run out of steam, Moffat doesn’t know how to resolve things. So he ends with a bunch of characters in a vault brokering a peace deal that we presume was successful, because that’s the last we hear about it. They have a role in the morality play, for certain, and their use of technology is something of a Chekhov’s gun, but overall you get the feeling that Moffat wanted the unavoidably phallic Zygons purely because he wanted the Zygons, and not because he had anything he really wanted to do with them. One of the great, criminally underused monsters of Classic Who is thus relegated to a forgettable storyline that’s been seen by millions of people who probably won’t understand what all the fuss was about.

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But if the Zygons are a disappointment, the interplay between the three Doctors makes up for it. Things start badly, with unnecessary gags about sonic screwdriver length (“Compensating for something?” mutters Tennant at seeing his successor’s longer model). But then they’re joined by an earlier incarnation and the story shifts up a gear. The three exploit their strengths to the full, making the most of every environment they occupy and turning in very different, but still very physical performances. As a result their scenes together are easily the best in the story, even if some of the dialogue is obvious and rather poorly performed (when the Tenth Doctor remarks that he doesn’t like the new TARDIS interior, one suspects that the look of indignation from Smith stems from a knowledge that he managed it better in ‘Closing Time’.)

Still, it works. Hurt’s performance helps tremendously. There was a concern that the War Doctor would be a grumpy, battle scarred veteran or a dark and sinister, almost unrecognisable figure. Instead Hurt plays him like a prospective father-in-law on a stag weekend, with a touch of Midsomer Murders. You could almost visualise him poaching rabbits from a nearby forest before seeing something he shouldn’t and winding up face down in a patch of mud, skewered by one of his own bear traps. His story has a beginning, a middle and an end – an end we finally get to see, even if the regeneration borrows directly from the very first, and is cut slightly short.

It is by this point in the story – and the subsequent scene with Baker – that you should have realised Moffat’s not taking himself too seriously. And it’s when he’s doing that that he’s at his best. Hence there is some dreadful but ultimately forgivable shoehorning. Classic lines are dumped in with as much abandon as they were in An Adventure in Time and Space, but here they work precisely because ‘Day of the Doctor’ is ultimately all about demolishing that fourth wall. As a result, the silliness all feels like part of the fun – the sort of sketches you might have at a Christmas party, and this is after all a fifty-year anniversary. I was even able to smile when Tennant discusses Trenzelore with Smith as if it’s a prospective holiday location. “We need a new destination,” he remarks as he enters his TARDIS at the end of the episode. “‘Cause I don’t wanna go”. Whereupon Smith turns to Coleman and quips “He always says that.”

It’s a story with all eleven Doctors, however briefly they may appear (and however unconvincing those cardboard cutouts / wax models they used at the end – I don’t think it was coincidental that the National Gallery is only a couple of miles from Madame Tussauds). We cried for a glimpse of Eccleston, and we got him, and somehow it didn’t matter that it was old footage with dialogue borrowed from ‘The Parting of the Ways’. Even Capaldi put in a brief appearance, albeit in an extreme close-up (the kind that would have made Wayne Campbell proud) in a scene that was most likely borrowed from The Thick of It. And the inevitable arguments that are going to follow about whether Hurt counts as Eight or Nine are entirely missing the point – although if we must, let’s call him 8a and leave it at that.

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So, too, must we ignore any sense of significance at Baker’s appearance. The scarf foreshadowed it, for certain, but his cryptic remarks about who he really was can be put down to Moffat having a joke. If the rediscovery of Gallifrey shifts the narrative focus and gives Capaldi something to do for the next couple of years, then so be it – but whatever Moffat’s posturing about “the terrible old man” and “the children he becomes”, you get the feeling that he was looking at ‘The Five Doctors’ – which Gareth describes as “more of a romp” – for inspiration. And for all the lingering over the big red button there was a sense of joy about this episode, both in its unlikely happy ending and in the final shot where the Doctor joins his previous incarnations looking up at the night sky. And what we were left with, when the extended credits had rolled, was a story about the Doctor as he was, and is, and should be, and sort of never won’t be…sort of thing. A story of importance, and one that satisfies on a narrative level, but one that was delivered with a consistent knowing wink to the audience, and a reminder that this is, after all, a television programme, and should be enjoyed as such. From Steven Moffat. Who knew?

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